NEW YORK (July 21, 2021) — On Monday, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) sent a letter to television host and executive producer, Samantha Bee, expressing concerns over how Rwanda’s dictatorial regime will likely exploit her show’s segment, “Rwandans and the UNHCR Are Treating Refugees with Empathy,” to whitewash its long history of grave atrocities against refugees and refugee camps, following the country’s 1994 genocide, as well as its ongoing deadly campaign of espionage, extrajudicial executions, renditions, and intimidation against Rwandan dissident refugees living abroad.
While praising Ms. Bee’s passion for social justice and her noble intention to explore stories about Rwanda and its positive conservation efforts, HRF’s letter also highlighted the human rights abuses attributed to the country’s dictator, Paul Kagame, which have been described by United Nations investigators as “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.” Since taking over Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, Kagame’s regime has perpetrated numerous crimes against refugees, while portraying Kagame internationally as a force for stability and humanitarianism in a volatile region.
“It is commendable to celebrate Rwandans for their welcoming attitude toward refugees. But praising the government of Rwanda is another matter and lends Paul Kagame’s murderous regime undeserved legitimacy, and, at the same time, provides it with a false appearance of humanitarianism, openness, and tolerance,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen. “Rwanda’s regime is actively attempting to distract the international community from the extensive crimes — including crimes against humanity — that it has committed both in the past and present, including those against refugees.”
This is not the first time Rwanda’s dictator and former warlord, Paul Kagame, has used a public figure to deceive the international community and distract it from his war crimes. In May, HRF sent a letter to the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Commissioner, Adam Silver, expressing concern over the NBA’s partnership with Kagame, noting that Kagame would exploit the NBA’s prestige to direct attention away from his regime’s ongoing repression.
HRF’s letter to Ms. Bee also calls on her take a moral stand by requesting that she: (1) begin a dialogue with current or former refugees whose lives have been directly affected by the devastation and death perpetrated by Kagame’s regime; (2) explicitly make clear that her efforts to highlight the lives of refugees in Rwanda are not an endorsement of Kagame’s brutal regime or policies; and (3) make an unequivocal public statement addressing her position on the matters addressed in the letter.
“Given your status as a public figure who advocates for social justice, especially for refugees, we believe that you have a responsibility to take a moral stand against Kagame and his brutal government,” concluded Halvorssen.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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